I used to say I’d live in a box before I’d give up my animals, years ago before my involvement with rescue as a coordinator. Over time, my rescue experiences have brought about a different perspective Honestly … would living in a box be fair to my animals? If life’s circumstances had deteriorated to the point that I’m living in a box, would I even be able to provide food or medical care for them? Would it be fair to ask them to live such a life? Am I truly thinking of them … or my own emotional needs?
These questions come roundabout as a result of one of the “ask” forums. Someone was asking if it would be “okay” for them to return a dog recently adopted from a shelter. The dog’s age and size were misrepresented or misunderstood at some point in the adoption process and the new owner thought he was getting dog that would grow to be much larger. The dog was small and was going to stay small … not what the new owner had expected or wanted.
The ensuing comments were vitriolic — to say the least — and expounded on what a bad person the poster was. My reaction, just the opposite: return the dog to the shelter so it could have a chance at a life with an owner who wanted a small dog and who could appreciate its many qualities. Why doom the dog to a lifetime with someone who wasn’t happy with it from the get go? Do we really think that shaming the owner into keeping the dog is going to change how they feel about the dog?
The flip side is that rescue would like to see every prospective owner carefully consider the impact of adding an animal to their household. Do they have the time needed for care, training, and socialization? Do they have the financial means to provide food and medical care? What breed of dog is most suitable to their lifestyle and home? Are there small children in the home? Anyone with allergies? Are they prepared to commit to the dog for its lifetime?
While it would be great if every dog lived out their life in one home — their forever home — I also understand that there are some circumstances beyond our control. Surrendering an animal to rescue takes forethought and having the animal’s best interest at heart. Yes, we still get the occasional lame excuses and, really, I don’t care when considering the big picture. It is not my place to judge … my responsibility as rescue is to see that the surrendered dog is placed in a home that meets the dog’s needs on every level. If someone comes up with a seriously lame excuse, then that dog really needs to be some place else!! If their reasons for surrender are valid or beyond one’s control, then we have to recognize their efforts to do what is best for the dog when they could just drop it off at a shelter and walk away (or worse, yet).
In the end, all that truly matters is the dog and what his or her life is going to be from that point forward.
And the little dog returned to the shelter? While the owner was standing in line for the return, she was adopted on the spot.